Finally! The Yankees split their 4 game series with the Rays, bookending their trip with wins. This afternoon’s Easter game was surprisingly better than yesterday’s almost instantly because of the pitching.
But first, the Yankees announced a trip to the DL for Ivan Nova due to a partial tear of his UCL. He will see the team doctor, who will decide if the treatment is rehab or even the dreaded (but oddly popular) Tommy John surgery. Nova was placed on the 15-day DL because a torn ligament, even a partial tear, isn’t something you can just sleep on and hope it feels better in the morning. Plus the Yankees activated Mark Teixeira from his hamstring injury. The corresponding roster moves were Scott Sizemore to AAA Scranton and Matt Daley was designated for assignment. And personally, I don’t think Sizemore’s going very far because his contributions to the team in the interim were rather outstanding.
So with the bullpen practically deflated from the last 2 games and saving some of the more feared starters (read: Tanaka) for the Boston series next week, it was Vidal Nuno to the mound, who was also sort of competing to take Nova’s starting spot while he recovers (though I hope it’s sooner rather than later because Nova is still one of the better pitchers, if you ignore yesterday’s outing). So Nuno went a full 5 innings, giving up 3 hits, 2 walks, and no runs, striking out 6 Rays batters. Let’s just say, Nuno could be an easy fit for that starter’s spot after today’s outing. He was pretty great actually, which really stood in contrast to his Spring.
The Yankees offense seemed a little stifled by the Rays’ starter, but finally found a hole in the 4th inning. Alfonso Soriano led off the inning with a double. Two outs later, he’s on 3rd and Brett Gardner is up to bat. Gardner his a long fly ball to right field, which is initially called an out, but was challenged and overturned as the right fielder actually “trapped” the ball and sold it as an out. The ball actually hit the fence above the wall and probably should have been at least a triple if not an inside the park home run, but on a replay overturn, the umpires ruled a double. Something about when the initial umpire call was made, which sounds to me like a cop out for a bad call, but at least it still scored Soriano. And the Yankees were up 1-0 over the Rays for a long time.
So David Phelps got his turn on the mound for 1.1 innings, starting in the 6th inning, and kept the Rays scoreless. In the 7th, with 1 out by Phelps, Matt Thornton was brought on as a lefty-specialist, but promptly allowed a single and a fielding error on a force attempt (which really should have been a double play, by the way). So the Yankees turned to Adam Warren to complete the 7th, a single, a sacrifice fly to tie up the game, and a strikeout. And the Yankees, with Warren at the helm, go into the 8th inning all tied and keep the Rays firmly planted there.
Even Shawn Kelley who gets his turn in the 9th, helped push the game into extra innings to pitch through the 10th. Kelley continues to show why he’s an excellent set-up man and interim closer. Someone made a Twitter joke calling him Shawn KKKKelley because of his 4 total strikeouts, and while that’s a little cheesy on the surface (and would make a decent scoreboard graphic), it does embody how crucial his pitching has become for the Yankee bullpen. It’s always nice to have consistency.
Now, the Yankees just called up Preston Claiborne to fill in the depleted bullpen and threw him into the game for the 11th for a quick 3 outs. Despite having a pretty terrible Spring, Claiborne seems to be back to his 2013 self, and for that, he was on the mound when the Yankees suddenly came alive in the 12th inning.
That’s right, the Yankees decided to go for it with gusto in the 12th. Very quickly, Solarte led off with a walk, Gardner grounded into a force out, and Roberts lined out. So it was 2 outs, and Gardner on 1st base. McCann singled and the Rays intentionally walked Ellsbury to load the bases. And then it’s Dean Anna to work a walk and walked in Gardner to break the tie. (2-1 Yankees) Still 2 outs, Carlos Beltran singled, allowing both McCann and Ellsbury to score. (4-1 Yankees) And Soriano decided to add his own stamp on the game and singled home Anna, for a score of 5-1 Yankees.
Claiborne came back to close out the bottom of the 12th, and despite a lead-off double, the Rays never really got close. And the Yankees had their win. Almost 4 1/2 hours, extra innings, and a whole lot of very excited local Yankee fans, and by the 12th inning, the Trop was electric. Even my brother (a Rays fan) said that this was how you play baseball. And no, Joe Maddon (Rays’ manager), it wasn’t just your lack of offense against “okay Yankees pitching”. Lazy offense, expecting a repeat of the last two games, I’ll accept. But you can’t blame pitching today, sir.